Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The artist within

For a number of years, at least since college, I've recognized that I'm not drawn toward the conventional. Much to my irritation, there hasn't been any one career I've felt I could "fit" into. Some artsy friends I know, when shopping for a shirt, pick out a fairly plain tee to which they can add the special touches they prefer: vintage buttons, a funky pocket, colorful stitching. Then, they say, it will be the perfect shirt. Well, that's pretty much how I feel about what I want to do in life. People always seem to want to know, what am I going to do with that MA in counseling? When will I get a job as a counselor, they ask? Their faces convey an amusing degree of shock when I reply that I didn't get my MA to be a counselor. I used to find this interchange mildly frustrating, but that was before I started getting in touch with the artist within.

You see, I love to write, to take pictures, to play guitar and create songs, to love on people, and to observe the world and find some way of creatively expressing what I see. And I've spent way too much time wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to use my degree in a creative way and still make money. But I just haven't found it yet. What I have found, however, is the grace to be content in being an artistic person, without having it expressed in what I do for a living, at least for the time being. Sometimes, I think, it's even more enjoyable this way. Not that I don't envision this changing. I can see travel, encountering the lives and stories of other people, writing, photography, and perhaps even speaking engagements as part of some uniquely crafted "shirt" someday. Thankfully, I no longer carry the burden of making it happen on my own. As I continue pursuing God and keeping my eyes open for opportunities, I believe things will start coming together, in much the same way an artist paints a picture. Bit by bit, stroke by stroke. As with a painter, it's not just about the finished work; its about the process of painting, the joy of creating and expressing.

I never understood how much this comes from the nature of God, because I never identified with this nature in me. The more I understand and appreciate the artistry of God and His creative process in the world and in our lives, the more I recognize how the way I'm wired reflects my Father. I'm like Him. I think we try to fight this, often unknowingly, because of the culture we're in. Generally speaking, we are shaped and conformed to fit a mold, to choose a specific (profitable) path, to set goals and not to deviate from them. We squelch the creative artist within that defies being narrowly defined or restricted, in favor of security and practicality. It's not that this is bad, per se; it's just not the whole picture. Not at all.

I've become a lot less frustrated since I've been coming to embrace the way God has designed me. It may be difficult to explain it to others, but I really don't feel I owe anyone an explanation. It's just exciting to understand more about who I am in light of understanding more of the limitless facets of God's personality. If we are ever "bored" Christians, we are sadly missing out on God's personality, because He is the furthest thing from boring. We may become bored with church, bored with religion, bored with life. But if we want to rise above boredom, the surest way to do it is by throwing ourselves into the pursuit of knowing the Person of Jesus. And at this point in life, I am particularly fascinated by His creative genius and how He has built that into me, intended for unique expression. Knowing this certainly brings Ephesians 2:10 more to life: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Friends, we are far from ordinary!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


As I keep picking up my guitar and singing to God, I find little bits and pieces of fresh, new songs coming out. It's just more evidence to me that God is continuing to heal my heart. They're always so simple (and usually in some form of the key of E, haha, not too surprising for those who used to be on worship team with me), but this is the latest one:

You have loved me with an everlasting love
An everlasting love
With compassion, You have drawn me out
And called me Yours
My heart is Yours

'Cause You'll never let it go
You'll never let it drop
You'll never give it back
Lord, I trust You (repeat)

With my heart, with my heart, with my heart, Lord (repeat)

Let Your love, Oh God, be in my heart
Like a burning fire shut up in my bones

Monday, January 25, 2010

If I could be anywhere...

If I could be anywhere in the world right at this moment,
I would be in Haiti.
I'd be searching out the orphans.
I'd be sitting beside them during the long days,
when they're too exhausted to play and too shocked to grieve.
I'd be holding them throughout the nights,
when they're afraid of being alone.
I'd be praying quietly over them, singing, as they sleep.
I'd be listening to their stories, their nightmares, their hopes
and their fears.
I'd be crying with them, and wiping away their tears.
I'd be kissing and bandaging their smaller scrapes and wounds,
while they wait to receive medical attention.
Yes, if I could be anywhere in the world,
in a heartbeat,
I'd be in Haiti with the orphans.

Except, Lord, I'm not in Haiti right now.
But You are.
Please be to the orphans everything I wish I could be, but can't.
Remember them, as You have promised:
"But You have seen, for you observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand...
You are the helper of the fatherless" (Psalm 10:14).

You know every orphan's name, You know every orphan's pain.
You see every tear, and You hold them close to Your heart.
Yes, Jesus, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees (Genesis 16:13).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

From stumps to trees

Regeneration (Webster's definition): (a)a being renewed, reformed, or reconstituted (b)a spiritual rebirth (c)the renewal or replacement of any hurt or lost part.

As I write this, I'm thinking about Haiti. I'm thinking about close friends of mine. I'm thinking about family members. And I'm thinking about some names and faces I barely know who have recently touched my life. The message of regeneration is good news for all who have been broken. A broken body, a broken dream, a broken marriage or relationship, a broken economy, a broken city, a broken country, the brokenness of death. For all who find or have found themselves as a tree that, once thriving, has been cut down, this passage in the book of Job offers hope:

"For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant" (Job 14:7-9, NKJV).

I've found that much brokenness, we really don't understand. Something or someone dear to us was "cut down" in our lives. Like a healthy tree being chopped down for no good reason that we can conceive. Other times, the someone or something "cut down" in our lives may, with time, be for us like being freed from a decaying root. Still painful, but in the long run, vital. I've experienced both types of brokenness, and in both cases I am coming to see the faithful regeneration of life that Job speaks of in faith. The masterful, creative, untiring redemptiveness of God, the Master artist, our Creator. When all we see before us - perhaps in the mirror or on the news or in our home - is a chopped down tree. A rotting stump. Hopes deferred. Loved ones lost. Relationships failed. Devastation of a nation. Bodies in need of healing. The list goes on, but the point is, it looks bleak. It looks hopeless. So we have a funeral for that dream or that marriage or that loved one, and then we do our best to move on. But we still may feel like that stump of a tree.

And then... God stretches open His hand, and the rain drops begin to fall from His fingertips. The rain may take all kinds of forms, for God has limitless resources, but we know the rain when it hits us. It refreshes us, and we feel the buds opening again: "Yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant." A stump, bringing forth branches? This is not just empty encouragement; it's in the very heart of God...

"To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
~ Isaiah 61:2-3, NKJV

Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel here, but timelessly, He is also speaking to us, for He has included us in the heart of His mission. Out of the ashes of devastation, He draws out beauty and life. That's who He is. Out of mere stumps, He brings forth trees of righteousness, planted firmly in His grace, that He may receive the glory. We must never settle for stumps, regardless of how things seem or how we feel. Jesus is in the business of bringing stumps to life with just the scent of His Spirit. He does this for us, and then He plants us as those trees of righteouness, to embody His message of regeneration in our world.

Jesus, give us eyes of faith to see beauty rise from the ashes. Give us strength and courage and hope to be part of Your redemptive, regenerative work in the earth. For the whole creation - ourselves, all the peoples, and the very earth itself - groan for this redemption (2 Cor. 5:1-4). It may not happen overnight, but regeneration will come.

"O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption."
~ Psalm 130:7, NKJV

Thursday, January 21, 2010


After a little research - seriously, it didn't take much - I think I decided it wouldn't be in my best interest to go to Haiti with the organization I was looking into going with. I feel a little sadness about that, but if it's right, it's right. And if it's not, it's just not. I'm not interested in forcing this door open, but I have been very willing, and even wanting, to go. Nevertheless, there may be another door to Haiti, or it may just be that God wanted to show me that the things He put on my heart years ago are still valid, still very much a part of how I'm wired. And for that, I'm so thankful. I continue to pray for Haiti. If only I could somehow provide a home for some of those orphans... anyone interested in starting a home here in Seattle? Only half joking... I think it's time to start thinking big and see where God takes it. We can never out-think God.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When the horse bucks you off

In many ways, when I lost my dad, I felt like I had been riding a wild horse in life and I got bucked off. It hurt, really bad, and left me quite shaken. I wouldn't say I was afraid to get back on; I actually just lost all desire to ride the wild horse. I watched it run off into the horizon, and I mourned it at first, but then I was glad it ran away. It made my life more bearable, at least for the time being. I guess I could identify with the wild horse, since I'd always seen myself as someone who was wired to live life on the edge. But in the aftermath and depression of grieving my dad's death (and numerous secondary losses), I no longer saw myself as either on a wild horse or as the wild horse. I felt I'd been broken, tamed, set off to graze in the pasture. And I think I had come to accept that, even to assimilate it into my newfound identity.

And then devastation hit Haiti. I was presented with an opportunity to go be a part of relief work in Haiti that I would have jumped on two years ago, and I felt the tension inside me between my "old" identity and my "new" one. Much to my surprise, it didn't take me long to jump inwardly at this chance to be working with people in severe trauma. I've found myself over the past few days growing more and more excited, soberly, at the possibility that lies before me. Like a horse in a corral, I could envision myself pawing the ground, desiring to be set free to run. But then, also to my surprise, the anxiety and lack of confidence started to set in. I've felt skiddish, unsure of myself, wondering, am I capable of this, am I even ready? Is this really wise when I've had no preparation or experience outside of my schooling for suffering of this magnitude?

And then I thought of the horse that had bucked me off. I thought of how much I've grown since then as a person, through my own suffering, and also of how much I've laid aside. I thought of myself, continuing at Starbucks, unsure of where to go from here, unsure if a horse ran up to me if I would have the confidence to grab hold of it and climb back on. And I thought, I've never been the type of person to "work my way" up to a task; I just take a flying leap. If I go to Haiti, I would be jumping back on the wildest horse in the pack after not having ridden for a year and a half. Like going from zero to a hundred and sixty in three seconds flat. Is that wise? I'm not sure. But it may be the only way for me.

You see, at the risk of sounding selfish, I'm beginning to think I may need to go to Haiti as much, if not more, than they would need me there personally. Do I have something to offer that would be useful to people in trauma? Yes. I have some understanding of trauma, I have a compassionate heart that loves people and has walked through my own losses, and most of all, I have the Spirit of Christ in me. I have the hope of the gospel. I have the ability to sit in silence with people and let them be, to cry with them, to pray for them, to hold them, to be a strength to lean on. But mostly, I've got to be honest, I think I need to get back on this horse more than my help is actually needed in Haiti.

Please pray for me, that I would have the wisdom and courage to do whatever it is God desires, to follow His lead. Haiti or not, it is unnervingly encouraging to find myself reawakening to things that God built into my heart long ago. They may be more matured now, and they may look rather different than before, but I know one thing about myself: I was never meant to be tamed.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'll go

Someone approached me on Friday about being a part of a small group of people sent to Haiti, all expenses paid, to specifically help those in extreme shock get to a place where they can function. Very basic, but very necessary. For the past year and a half, I've wanted almost nothing to do with working with trauma survivors, even though that had previously been my passion and area of study in grad school. But when this man pitched his idea, something in me stirred that I thought had long been buried with the death of my dad. I wanted to go. Now, whether or not this team actually comes together is another story, but in my heart I know that I'm as good as on that plane if God opens the door. And I could be over there for about a month.

Having walked through my own journey of grief the past year and a half and coming to experience the depth of God's faithfulness and unyielding strength, I can truly say it would be a privilege to be able to carry with me the grace and life of Christ, in the flesh, to however many people in Haiti I would come in contact with. We'll see what happens... regardless, in the midst of the deep sadness I feel for the enormity of the suffering the people of Haiti are experiencing, I also have hope and anticipation for this huge opportunity the entire world has to witness the greatness, power, and love of God in action - both through people and far surpassing human efforts and abilities. However I can be a part of that, whether through prayer, donations, or actually going in person, I will. We are all invited to play a part in reaching out to the Haitians, and also to stand back and watch, amazed, for what God will do.


A curious customer finally mustered the courage, I think, to ask me yesterday why I work at Starbucks when I clearly (according to him) have more of a purpose in life than that. I gave him a fairly wordy explanation - my life in a nutshell the past year and a half - but had I been succinct, I could have cut it all down to one statement:

My purpose in life is simply to bring glory and pleasure to Jesus, and thankfully I'm able to do that wherever I'm working.

It sounds so incredibly basic. I guess it really is. But let me tell you, it has been anything but simple in arriving at this conclusion. I had the talk down long before I could own it in my walk. Having this understanding of my purpose now frees me to be who I really am in Christ. No need to strive, or prove myself, or earn my way into God's good graces or the Christian "hall of fame." My purpose is not career or ministry or marriage or family. I'm not here on this earth to live as good a life as possible. I'm here to glorify Jesus with my life. I'm alive because of Him, and I live for Him. There is no longer any other purpose (or fine print to my purpose) in life I require. Now that is liberation!

All of life is about breathing in this grace of the gospel of Christ and breathing it back out upon a world starved for grace. We who profess Christ really need not make our purpose (or "calling") more complicated than that. It's just Jesus, it really is that simple. He's enough. Still, give me an eternity and I'll never reach the end of this mystery. It's absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hope for Haiti

Dear Haiti,

I will not pretend to have the ability of identifying with the depth of your pain and loss and devastation. You have suffered much, and the suffering persists so fiercely. I do not understand these things; they grieve me and bring tears to my eyes, and yet I am still so removed from your suffering. However, there is One who is not removed from your affliction, not ever; He is intimately acquainted with your grief. Here is what I know to be true, and this I pray over you, Haiti, that you may have hope against all hope:

God is your refuge and strength, a very present help in your trouble. Therefore, you need not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, and though everything around you may be in ruins; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Haiti, there is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High, and this river can flow to you and bring you life, restoration and healing. When God is in the midst of you, you shall not be moved; God shall help you, Haiti, just at the break of dawn; He always comes through. Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; he burns the chariot in the fire. He is all powerful, and He is mighty to save. Be still, and know that He is God; He will be exalted among the nations, He will be exalted in your nation, He will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with you; The God of Jacob is your refuge. (taken from Psalm 46)

Haiti, you are precious to this God. I pray that you will have hope in the God who hears the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the broken, the wounded, the afflicted, the fatherless, the widow, the homeless, the hungry, the dying. Your voices do not go unheard, no matter if all the rest of the world cannot hear your cries at all times. No matter if the world's resources fall short or fail you. He hears, and He cares, and He breaks into your despair to bring hope.

humbly and prayerfully,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Of all the gifts

Man, I am one spoiled girl. This birthday in particular, I feel a little embarassed by the incredible display of God's love toward me even before I reached this day. I think I'm getting it, finally: I'm loved. And it's wonderful. It's unconditional, it's unfailing, and it's the real deal.

"Your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness."

If I could describe where I'm at as I head into this next year of life, it would be that line, from a song I was listening to today. In the past several months alone, I have seen His grace in action, completely covering over my brokenness and overtaking it. There's no experience like that. No doubt, the recurring themes you'll read in my writing will be grace, hope and love, embodied in Jesus. There are so many ways I can write about these themes, but hear me out, you'll read them again and again and again. If there's one thing I want to do well as a writer (and overall, as a person), it's to showcase Jesus. Not my skills, not my opinions, not my knowledge or wisdom, not my ability to write in different genres... nope, just Jesus. That gives me plenty to write about.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The beginning of the end

It's the end of my last day of being twenty-eight... the beginning of the end of my twenties. How surreal this is, that a whole decade of my life could fly by so quickly. I think after turning twenty-five (when the "beginning of the end" really starts to loom ahead), I developed this dread of Thirty. You who are there know what I'm talking about. I'm not going to lie, it's not completely gone, but I'm coming to a place where I'm almost ready to embrace it. I plan on living this last year of my twenties to the fullest, instead of dragging my heels into the next decade of my life. And I plan on doing that, in part, through writing.

Yes, after all that insistence that I wouldn't start a blog, that it was too much upkeep, here I am. It just seemed like it was time to branch out, beyond facebook. Imagine that, a world of writing beyond facebook... I think I can muster the imagination for that.

I invite you to join, or continue with me, on this journey. I don't know in what ways, but I just know this is going to be a good year. I'm confident, because God is good and I am eager to taste more of that goodness this year. I hope you'll also taste of His goodness through my writing. May you have eyes to see how inexhaustibly creative, gracious, patient and resourceful He is, to craft such beauty out of the rubbish of life.